Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Materials


Currently the Department is responsible for the Chemical Engineering and Engineering in Biotechnology programs, with the participation of a body of professors characterized by their strong background at a doctorate level and high academic productivity in their respective areas of expertise. The Department also provides postgraduate education at master and doctorate levels in the areas of chemical engineering, biotechnology and materials science.

The Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Materials (DIQBM) commenced in the laboratories dedicated to General Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and Saltpeter processing, all part of the School of Engineering. In 1960, the Center for Chemistry was formed on the basis of the laboratories mentioned. In 1965, the newly formed Department of Chemistry consisted of two areas: Basic Chemistry and Operations and Unit Processes. In 1973, the latter formed an independent department named Chemical Technology. In 1981 both merged; however, it was eventually agreed to separate the areas, becoming two units with clearly defined areas and objectives: the Department of Basic Chemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering (DIQ). During the second half of the 90's, there was a strong impulse to recruit new academics, which led to the creation of the Biotechnology area and the specialty of Engineering in Biotechnology, in 1996. In view of this, it was renamed the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DIQBT) in 2005.

In parallel, the Department of Materials Science (DCM) began its activities toward the end of 2004, as a result of a merger between the Departments of Basic Chemistry and Materials Engineering. Its mission was to generate fundamental and applied knowledge in the field of Materials Science, and training in Chemistry and Materials Sciences at the basic level for different bachelor degrees.

Recently, in 2017, the DCM merged with the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DIQBT), giving rise to the current Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Materials (DIQBM).

The DIQBM contributes increasingly to finding solutions to problems of the national productive sector related to the exploitation and development of natural resources.

Staff in charge
Director Dr. Paulo Araya
Subdirector Dra. Maria Elena Lienqueo
Teaching coordinator Dr. Cristian Salgado
Postgraduate coordinator Dr. Juan Asenjo


The Department is responsible for the following programs:

  • Training in Chemistry and Materials Sciences at our Faculty, with an annual average of 800 students within the "Common Plan" (Plan Común) and other specialties in engineering.
  • Minor in Materials Engineering: allows students to better understand the role of materials in modern technology, recognizing fundamental processes that govern their behavior in engineering.
  • Chemical Engineering. A technological-scientific program linked to industrial processes. It is a field of specialization of engineering closely tied to technological innovation through transformation and the enrichment of natural resources.
  • Engineering in Biotechnology: Program associated with the design, evaluation, planning, operation and research of processes and plants that involve the optimal utilization of matter and energy of biological origin (enzymes, bacteria, yeast, microalgae, animal cells, etc.).
  • Master in Engineering Science, mention Chemical Engineering: The program is designed for advanced training in the area of engineering processes, with the choice of a specialization in chemical engineering, biochemistry and biotechnology, processes of polymerization and catalysis, hydro-electrometallurgical processes, and decontamination processes. The program trains graduates to work in academia or in professional research and development activities.
  • PhD in Engineering Sciences, in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. Training program for professionals and academics of the highest level in order to independently carry out original research which represent significant contributions to the knowledge in the field of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology.
  • PhD in Engineering Sciences, mention inMaterialScience:The program objective is to train specialists at the highest scientific and technological level, giving them the capacity to make original contributions to the knowledge and new technologies related to Materials Science.


The Department of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology and Materials emphasizes research, exploitation and the development of natural resources in such areas as coal, biomass, metallurgical and inorganic salt resources, as well as the biotechnology and polymer industry.

The growth and strengthening of current teaching and research groups opens the way for the future implementation of programs in the modern fields of the synthesis of advanced materials, decontamination and environmental health, biological treatment of water and waste, development of modern technology for the agricultural, fishing and food industries, petrochemicals, etc.

Research areas

1. Biomaterials and Advanced Materials: The development of new materials with specific functionality for use in regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, and electronics.

  • Bioactive materials for regenerative medicine

Biopolymers of natural origin such as alginates and bacterial nanocellulose and their combination with different nanoparticles are used for biomedical applications, synthesis of doped bioactive ceramic materials, and the synthesis of hybrid materials based on grapheme, design of 3D structures for guided cell growth, synthesis of metallic nanoparticles using biological supra-structures and antimicrobial nanomaterials.

  • Nanotechnology

Development of polymeric compounds with natural or synthetic nanoparticles, for example clay, TiO2, or graphene derivatives, with specific properties for use in medicine, active food packaging, and sensors, study of the transport of electrons through molecules and biomolecules using MCBJ devices (Mechanically controlled Break Junction device) with the aim of building sensors or unimolecular devices.

  • The design of new materials with specific physical properties

Studies of polymers with conductive particles for the development of electroactive compounds, study of high dielectric constant materials and their addition in polymer matrices, synthesis of functional molecular materials based on organic molecules, and/or coordination compounds, with magnetic, electrical and/or optical properties, for the formation of porous metal-organic networks, liquid crystals or molecular magnets.


2. Biotechnology: Development, modeling and optimization of new biotechnological processes through metabolic, protein and genetic engineering.

  • The use of Recombinant Strains and Metabolic Engineering

Cloning and synthesis of recombinant proteins, mathematical modeling using microbial cells and animal cells, study of metabolic fluxes in recombinant cells and metabolic pathway design and modification, metabolomics.

  • Protein Separation, Characterization and Engineering

Physicochemical and electrophoretic characterization of proteins and the use of genetic engineering to study the structure-function relationship of enzymes and to find new high-activity enzymes using site-directed mutagenesis and random mutagenesis or directed evolution.

  • Synthetic Biology

The design of biological systems that do not exist in nature with the aim of creating new programmable organisms that are capable of producing biological compounds when needed.

  • Biorefinery

Sustainable processing of biomass to achieve its conversion into a variety of bio-compound products (food, drugs, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, chemical substances, raw materials) and bioenergy (biofuels, power and/or heat).

3. Energy and Sustainability: The study of new systems for the removal of pollutants and/or the production of renewable energies, through heterogeneous catalysis, photoactive nanoparticles, and fuel cells, development and modeling of sustainable and energy efficient chemical processes.

  • Catalysis and energy

Development of heterogeneous catalysts for the abatement of nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, along with the production and purification of hydrogen and synthetic natural gas in solid-gas systems and the purification of wastewater by photocatalysis.

  • Sustainable industrial processes

Optimization of processes and industrial networks of mass and energy transfer (Industrial Symbiosis), application of systemic engineering, sustainable design and renewable energy in processes, development of new materials to optimize fluid transport processes and heat transfer by solar radiation, new recycling processes.

4. Modeling and Simulation of Chemical, Biological and Molecular Processes: Study, analysis and understanding of the functioning of chemical, biological and molecular processes and systems using modeling techniques, mathematical and computational simulation in order to generate knowledge that enables the intervention, control, optimization and use of such systems.

  • Biological Processes

Development of mathematical methods to correlate cellular function and metabolic flow with gene expression, mathematical models of cellular metabolism and genetic regulation of metabolic flux, modeling of cellular transport processes, systems for homeostasis and biological control.

  • Chemical Processes

Development of modeling techniques and optimization of industrial chemical processes in stationary and transient states, strategy and use of phenomenological and empirical models for the design of control systems and process optimization.

  • Molecular and Bioinformatic Models

Computational and bioinformatic studies for the examination of the structure-function relationship and the elucidation of the 3-D protein structure and protein engineering, studies of modeling and molecular simulation using molecular dynamics and quantum chemistry techniques.

5. Processes and Materials for the Mining Industry: Objective: To investigate the physicochemical, biological and material science foundations of the metallurgical processes in the mining industry and evaluate their application for the improvement of current technologies and the development of more sustainable processes.

  • Hydro- and biohydrometallurgical processes

Leaching of sulphide copper minerals in situ: fundamentals and development of processes, mechanism of leaching of sulfurized minerals in solutions with high concentration of chlorides, galvanic effects, kinetics and mechanism of bacterial leaching of minerals and concentrates, electrochemical aspects of bacterial leaching, bioflotation in seawater: fundamentals and process development.

  • Electrometallurgical processes

Study of kinetics and the mechanism of electronucleation and electrocrystallization in the electrowinning and electrorefining of copper and other metals, design of electrochemical reactors used in electrometallurgical processes.


The DIQBM actively participates in outreach programs such as the Summer School of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile.

Secretary Erika Jorquera A.
Phone +562 29784284
Address Beauchef 851, piso 6. Santiago, Chile